It’s done – Millie Bright says England have moved on from Lauren James red card

By Sports Desk August 08, 2023

Captain Millie Bright insists England have already moved on from learning they would lose Lauren James for at least Saturday’s World Cup quarter-final after the forward was sent off late in the last-16 victory over Nigeria.

The 21-year-old was shown a red after stepping on the back of defender Michelle Alozie, resulting in an automatic one-match ban that could be extended to three games by FIFA’s disciplinary committee, meaning her tournament could be over.

If there is one team-mate who truly appreciates what James is feeling it is Bright, who four years ago in France became the first player in Lionesses history to be sent off in a World Cup knockout encounter when she was dismissed for a second bookable offence in the semi-final against the United States.

“I think it is really important that we look after each other,” Bright said. “I have been through that. I know exactly how that feels.

“I think it is important that she has her space and lets her emotions settle. But it’s done now, we move on. We are through.

“It’s football. Listen, I have had red cards. Everyone goes through it as a player, everyone goes through it on the world stage. But for me, it’s not a situation that needs too much light shining on it.

“It’s happened. It’s in the past. We are through. All that matters is we come together as a group, we have each others’ backs, and it is just another challenge in football that the player has to face.

“But we have got her back completely and we will get ready for the next game.”

England will face Colombia in Saturday’s quarter-final after the world number 25 side beat Jamaica 1-0 on Tuesday to reach the last eight for the first time in their history.

The Lionesses were boosted by the return of Keira Walsh against Nigeria – a comeback from a knee injury few imagined possible after she was removed from the pitch on a stretcher in the first half of England’s second group match, a 1-0 triumph over Denmark.

Scans revealed the issue was not as serious as first suspected and Walsh managed 120 minutes against Nigeria, including the nervy 30 minutes of 10-woman extra time to force penalties, the result sealed 4-2 for England by Chloe Kelly’s emphatic spot-kick.

Though boss Sarina Wiegman’s switch to a 3-5-2 formation in Walsh’s absence seemed to spark the Lionesses into life in their 6-1 group-stage victory over China, her side did not play as well against Nigeria with three at the back, and in fact looked more controlled when they were short-handed.

Bright said: “Many asked, ‘Was that hard out there?’ Of course it’s hard, it’s a knockout game in a World Cup, and we knew that these games were going to be extremely tough coming into this tournament.

“But again, I have said it from day one, our character, our mentality, our resilience to give absolutely everything to the badge and to represent out fans at home, and ultimately find a way to win… we did that again.”

And while she agreed England ultimately were not at their best against Nigeria, Bright added: “To be honest, I don’t think we really care. We are through to the next round. Tournament football is about getting the job done.

“Of course, we all want to be better. We all want to play the perfect performance and be able to come to these interviews and say how fancy we looked.

“But ultimately, I am just bothered if we get through. We are prepared for any opponent, any challenge, that we face.”

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